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Gradišče above Bašelj

The hilltop settlement of Gradišče in the foothills of the mountain Storžič had an exclusive value in the Early Medieval Carniola. Uncovered layers with numerous iron objects and ceramic fragments from the period between the end of the 8th century and the beginning of the 10th century were found at the place.

  • Before AD 850

Before AD 850

Landscape

In the north-western part of Slovenia, above the village of Bašelj, near the foot of the 2132 m high mountain of Storžič, and hidden between the prominent hills of Veliki vrh and St Lawrence, rises the pointed, steep-sloped elevation of Gradišče (873 m.a.s.l.). Fig. 1 Fig. 2 Fig. 3 The southern slope under the rocky hilltop is covered by man-made terraces. The easiest approach to the top is from the saddle on the south-western side. Another route from the saddle leads to the Bašeljski preval mountain pass. The archaeological site on the rocky hilltop of the otherwise wooded Gradišče measures about 50 × 100 metres. The relief indicates that there are remains of a settlement below the surface. On three sides, the site is surrounded by a wall, while on the eastern side, there is a steep rocky slope, which ends in the ravine of Pekel, created by the Belica stream. Situated under the mighty slopes of the mountains of Storžič and Zaplata and reigning over the entrance to the Kokra river valley, the site offers a view over the extensive plain of Kranjsko polje, all the way to the town of Kranj – the Roman Carnium and the Early Medieval Creina.1

Fig. 1: Gradišče above Bašelj in the northwestern part of Slovenia. Credit: National Museum of Slovenia

Fig. 1: Gradišče above Bašelj in the northwestern part of Slovenia. Credit: National Museum of Slovenia

Fig. 2: Gradišče above Bašelj. National Topographic Map 1 : 25 000 (Preddvor 72). Credit: The Surveying and Mapping Authority of the Republic of Slovenia

Fig. 2: Gradišče above Bašelj. National Topographic Map 1 : 25 000 (Preddvor 72). Credit: The Surveying and Mapping Authority of the Republic of Slovenia

Fig. 3: Gradišče above Bašelj in the foothills of Storžič (2132 m.a.s.l.). On the left the church of St Lawrence. Credits: National Museum of Slovenia, Timotej Knific

Fig. 3: Gradišče above Bašelj in the foothills of Storžič (2132 m.a.s.l.). On the left the church of St Lawrence. Credits: National Museum of Slovenia, Timotej Knific

Due to its location, the site has a distinctly military character. Fig. 4 While its excellent strategic position can be indicative of its military role, steep slopes and lack of fertile ground make it less suitable for everyday life. The Gradišče stronghold probably controlled the route from the regional centre in Kranj over mountain passes to Carinthia.2

Fig. 4: Gradišče above Bašelj, lidar image. Credits: Institute for the Protection of Cultural Heritage of Slovenia, Dimitrij Mlekuž

Fig. 4: Gradišče above Bašelj, lidar image. Credits: Institute for the Protection of Cultural Heritage of Slovenia, Dimitrij Mlekuž

There are several more elevations with Late Antique remains of fortified settlements to the west and east of Gradišče above Bašelj, on the sunny wooded slopes under the Kamnik-Savinja Alps. Among them are Štefanja gora under Krvavec, St Jacob above Potoče and St Lawrence .3

Settlement

With the area of about 50 × 100 m, the settlement lies on the rocky top of the Gradišče hill and on the terraced slopes covered by bushes and forest, where outlines of several rectangular buildings can still be seen. The buildings are arranged on the terraces and along the stone wall surrounding three sides of the settlement. On the eastern side, the settlement was well protected by steep rocky cliffs. Fig. 5 Fig. 6 During the 1939 and 1998 excavations under the direction of the National Museum of Slovenia Fig. 7, the wall was discovered under the top of the hill, on the south-west, near the path. The wall was up to 0.7 m thick, made of quarry stones filled with mortar. Its foundations stood on the bedrock. The preserved height of the wall was 1.2 m, but originally it had certainly been higher, as indicated by heaps of stones that fell from it, both on the inner and outer side of the wall.4

Fig. 5: Gradišče above Bašelj. The drawing shows walls, terraces and suggested plans of buildings. The red arrow shows the location in the western wall where excavations took place in 1939 and 1998. Credits: Institute for the Protection of Cultural Heritage of Slovenia, Regional Unit Kranj (Knific 1999a, Fig. 7); drawing by Dr. Peter Fister, 1967

Fig. 5: Gradišče above Bašelj. The drawing shows walls, terraces and suggested plans of buildings. The red arrow shows the location in the western wall where excavations took place in 1939 and 1998. Credits: Institute for the Protection of Cultural Heritage of Slovenia, Regional Unit Kranj (Knific 1999a, Fig. 7); drawing by Dr. Peter Fister, 1967

Fig. 6: Gradišče above Bašelj, lidar image. Credits: Institute for the Protection of Cultural Heritage of Slovenia, Dimitrij Mlekuž

Fig. 6: Gradišče above Bašelj, lidar image. Credits: Institute for the Protection of Cultural Heritage of Slovenia, Dimitrij Mlekuž

Fig. 7: Gradišče above Bašelj, excavations of the National Museum of Slovenia in 1998. Credits: National Museum of Slovenia, Jože Hanc

Fig. 7: Gradišče above Bašelj, excavations of the National Museum of Slovenia in 1998. Credits: National Museum of Slovenia, Jože Hanc

During the excavation, a gate with two doorframe slots was discovered in the wall. A charred pole and a man-worked tufa stone, which had both probably been parts of the gate, were found in the vicinity, destroyed by fire. Near the gate, a stone building was leaning against the wall, but its interior was not investigated. Next to it, there were two stone steps, leading to the north. Fig. 8 Relatively scarce small finds from the walking surface and from the sand in the mortar, as well as architectural remains, prove that the settlement existed in the Late Antique period, when it was destroyed in a fire. Fig. 9 Radiocarbon analysis of charcoal and charred seeds of cereals and other plants confirmed a date between the mid-4th and mid-6th centuries. Following its destruction, the settlement was probably not inhabited for some time. Life in the settlement resumed at the end of the 8th century and it existed until the 11th century, as proved by many iron objects and pottery fragments, scattered over the entire area of the settlement in the strongly charred layer above the ruins. Fig. 10 Fig. 11 5

Fig. 8: Gradišče above Bašelj, excavations of the National Museum of Slovenia in 1998. Credits: National Museum of Slovenia, Jože Hanc

Fig. 8: Gradišče above Bašelj, excavations of the National Museum of Slovenia in 1998. Credits: National Museum of Slovenia, Jože Hanc

Fig. 9: Gradišče above Bašelj, objects from Late Antiquity. Credits: National Museum of Slovenia, Tomaž Lauko

Fig. 9: Gradišče above Bašelj, objects from Late Antiquity. Credits: National Museum of Slovenia, Tomaž Lauko

Fig. 10: Gradišče above Bašelj, objects in situ, excavations of the National Museum of Slovenia in 1998. Credits: National Museum of Slovenia, Timotej Knific

Fig. 10: Gradišče above Bašelj, objects in situ, excavations of the National Museum of Slovenia in 1998. Credits: National Museum of Slovenia, Timotej Knific

Fig. 11: Gradišče above Bašelj, charred layer, excavations of the National Museum of Slovenia in 1998. Credits: National Museum of Slovenia, Timotej Knific

Fig. 11: Gradišče above Bašelj, charred layer, excavations of the National Museum of Slovenia in 1998. Credits: National Museum of Slovenia, Timotej Knific

References

1 Knific, Timotej, ‘Arheološko najdišče Gradišče nad Bašljem (The Gradišče above Bašelj Archaeological Site)’, in Roblek, Tone (ed.), Preddvor v času in prostoru, Zbornik Občine Preddvor, Preddvor, 1999, pp. 55, 57–58
Bremec, Rok, Arheološka topografija utrjenih najdišč med Begunjščico-Zgošo, Savo in Kokro (Archaeological Topography of Fortified Settlements in the Territory between Begunjščica-Zgoša and the Rivers of Sava and Kokra), Undergraduate Thesis, Faculty of Arts, Kranj, 2012, pp. 152 – 157

2 Knific, Timotej, ‘Arheološko najdišče Gradišče nad Bašljem (The Gradišče above Bašelj Archaeological Site)’, in Roblek, Tone (ed.), Preddvor v času in prostoru, Zbornik Občine Preddvor, Preddvor, 1999, p. 67

3 Ibid., p. 55
Valič, Andrej, ‘Temeljne arheološke prvine okolice Preddvora (Archaeological Sources from the area of Preddvor)’, in Roblek, Tone (ed.), Preddvor v času in prostoru, Zbornik Občine Preddvor, Preddvor, 1999, pp. 43–53

4 Knific, Timotej, ‘Arheološko najdišče Gradišče nad Bašljem (The Gradišče above Bašelj Archaeological Site)’, in Roblek, Tone (ed.), Preddvor v času in prostoru, Zbornik Občine Preddvor, Preddvor, 1999, pp. 59–60

5 Ibid., pp. 63-64
Knific, Timotej, ‘Gradišče nad Bašljem (Gradišče above Bašelj)’, in Božič, D. et al., Zakladi tisočletij. Zgodovina Slovenije od neandertalcev do Slovanov, Ljubljana, 1999, p. 398

Continue to: AD 850 – 1050

Landscape Settlement

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